The pandemic and corresponding economic downturn affected both employers and employees. The impact of these events will be felt in shifts in employee benefits and health insurance, in 2021 and beyond. Below we highlight a few trends that we see on the horizon.
In general, healthcare costs have been rising steadily over the past decade. The most frequently cited factors for this increase in costs includes a growing population, aging population, and an increase in disease detection and prevalence which in turn increases the utilization of medical care.
Next year, we will most likely see an increase of 5% to 10% in our healthcare premiums. And it is expected that insurance claims for preventive and elective care that was put on hold during the pandemic, will also increase. As a result, consumers will most likely see an increase in out-of-pocket maximums and deductibles.
Once COVID hit the U.S. in March, the healthcare system was set on its heels. Non-critical surgeries, procedures and even doctor’s visits came to a halt, causing the industry to pivot to new ways of managing and maintaining contact with patients. This caused many providers to utilize telemedicine.
We see this trend continuing into 2021 and beyond. Consumers are embracing the convenience and safety of meeting virtually. And for many doctor interactions, an online experience can mirror an in-person appointment.
During the pandemic, those who did venture into the office have been greeted with thermometers, sanitizer, empty waiting rooms and little to no waiting. This new reality has set a higher bar for physician’s office which traditionally would overbook appointments and try to see as many patients as possible. We think consumers will continue to demand a better in-office experience, one that is streamlined without cutting corners in the administration of healthcare.
The stress of the pandemic combined with increased access to telemedicine will result in expansion of mental health benefits. Many people feel uncomfortable seeking help for stress and anxiety. However, in a telemedicine environment there is much less stigma in getting assistance to deal with mental health issues.
In a recent survey of employers by the Business Group on Health, two-thirds of businesses said they offer online mental health support and that is expected to grow to 88% in 2021. The study also found that management teams plan to offer to encourage employees to seek help when needed.
Many employers will continue to make their benefits plans more attractive by increasing the availability of additional voluntary benefits such as life and disability insurance, home, auto and pet insurance, financial counseling, and legal services.
These benefits can be offered with no cost to the employer but at a discount to the employee. And, these options can often differentiate one business from another helping to attract and retain qualified employees.
At The Kirwan Companies, we know this year has been a tough one for the companies we serve and their employees. Out of every experience comes a chance for change and adaptation. We see some of these trends in employee benefits and health insurance as positive outcomes that will make the traditional workplace and the stay-at-home experience better for tomorrow. We look forward to a more prosperous 2021. For help with designing a benefits plan for your employees, please contact us at 215-497-9777.